Svalbard is part of Norway and the archipelago is situated to the North of the Norwegian mainland, in the Barents Sea. The largest settlement is Longyearbyen, one of the northernmost settlements in the world (78 degrees north). There are no roads between Longyearbyen and the other settlements. More than 60 per cent of the archipelago is covered by ice and the climatic conditions are very demanding compared to most other places in the world. During winter the temperature can drop below -30 degrees C, and the average temperature in summer is 8-10 degrees C. Due to Longyearbyen's position so far north one does not see the sun from late October until the beginning of March. From mid November to February it is dark 24 hours a day. Polar bears are common in Svalbard, and it is not advisable to travel outside Longyearbyen without a proper weapon for self protection.
The Immigration Act and The Svalbard Treaty
In mainland Norway the Immigration Act regulates foreign citizen's entry to and residence in the country. Despite the fact that Svalbard is part of Norway the Immigration Act does not apply on the archipelago. This is due to the fact that Svalbard has a special status pertaining to international law. An international treaty, the Svalbard Treaty, provides for Norwegian sovereignty in the archipelago. Article 3 in the Treaty states that citizens and companies from all treaty nations enjoy the same right of access to and residence in Svalbard. As a consequence the Immigration Act does not apply and Svalbard is held outside the Schengen area.
Visa and entry to Svalbard
Everyone may, in principle, travel to Svalbard, and foreign citizens do not need a visa or a work or residence permit from Norwegian authorities in order to settle in Svalbard. Foreign citizens with visa requirements to the Schengen area do, however, need a valid Schengen visa if they travel through Schengen on their way to or from Svalbard. It is required with two entries in the traveller's visa to be able to return to the Schengen area (mainland Norway) after the stay at Svalbard.
Conditions for residence in Svalbard
Even though neither a visa nor a work or residence permit is required, everyone has to meet certain conditions in order to live in Svalbard. These conditions are outlined in a specific set of regulations from 1995 called "Regulations concerning rejection and expulsion from Svalbard". Among other things the regulations state that The Governor can reject persons who do not have the sufficient means to support themselves. Therefore, it is advisable to secure housing and employment before deciding to settle in Svalbard.
It is difficult to find work in Longyearbyen, and Norwegian is the main working language. The Governor of Svalbard is not an employment agency and is not updated on vacancies and job opportunities. The official employment agency in Norway, NAV, registers vacant positions in Norwegian, but not in English. NAV does however have English web pages that give general information about how to find work in Norway. Through the English web pages one can also contact NAV. Another possibility is to contact the different local employers in Longyearbyen directly.
The real estate market in Svalbard is different from the mainland. Most houses and apartments are owned by companies and institutions that provide them to their employees as part of the work relationship. In other words it is difficult to find housing if you do not have a job. Practically all land in Svalbard is owned by the Norwegian state, and it is next to impossible to buy land to build a private house. There are a few private apartments and houses that are sold or let out to inhabitants, but the prices are very high. In general, housing and living expenses in Norway and Svalbard are among the highest in the world
Travel from Svalbard to the mainland/Schengen and Norwegian citizenship
Foreign citizens who stay in Svalbard can hand in applications for visa to Norway/Schengen area, applications for residence and work permit in Norway and applications for Norwegian citizenship to The Governor of Svalbard. It is important to notice that residence in Svalbard does not in itself give the right to obtain a residence permit for the mainland or Norwegian citizenship.
The Governor's part in processing foreign citizens cases
The Governor of Svalbard can assist with advice and information about questions relating to Norwegian immigration legislation. The Governor does not however process applications in these matters but forward them to The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI). It is UDI that processes all applications for visas, residence permits, citizenships etc. For further information about these issues we advise you to visit the website of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.